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ELEX II Review

ELEX II Review

ELEX II is a science-fantasy, open-world role-playing game from Piranha Bytes. Yes, the same developers that “blessed” us with the Gothic and Risen franchises. Set six years after the events of ELEX, we once again take control of Commander Jax, who is no longer remembered as the hero of past events and is now living in isolation.

A new threat emerges from the sky with meteors raining down onto the lands of Magalan, one crashing through the roof of Jax’s home. Forced out into the open, Jax is then attacked by strange alien creatures leaving him no option but to run for his life. Unfortunately, one of these unusual beasts manages to bite Jax on the arm, infecting him with the space lurgy as he then falls off a cliff and is knocked unconscious.


Waking up several days later in the care of one Adam Dawkins — the very same Dawkins that was inside of “The Hybrid”, and antagonist of the first ELEX game — who brings Jax up to speed with current events. The five main factions of the game — the Berserkers, the Albs, the Outlaws, the Morkons, and the Clerics — are still fighting for territorial control and couldn’t give two flying hoots about the invading Skyand threat. Dawkins tasks you to bring assistance to Bastion so plans can be made to defeat the new invaders. Jax’s main focus at the start though is to find his son and ensure his safety.

This is where your adventures begin as you’re left to your own devices. No hand-holding here, no quest markers that instantly appear, no directions to follow; it’s just you versus the world, and the world will win. Jax starts out weaker than a rice cracker that would struggle to punch a hole through a wet paper bag. ELEX II is quite unforgiving in the early stages of the game as many of the mundane enemies pose quite a threat until you’ve managed to level up, pump points into attributes, and find some better gear than the lead pipe you start things with.


It was in these initial stages that I encountered my first annoyance with this game. While this is clearly a kleptomaniac’s wet dream with loot scattered all over the place ripe for the taking, the game refuses to allow any form of loot collecting while you have a weapon in your hand. Jax is standing there with a pipe in one hand, the other is clearly empty and unused, so why can I not use this spare empty hand to simply pick up a piece of rat that I’ve just killed? Why do I have to sheathe the pipe before being able to ransack something? Jax also appears to have pockets like a wizard's sleeve, as there seemed to be no limitation on how much shit he could actually carry around, so feel free to go steal everything that is not nailed down. I will also add at this point that the model for Jax became a contortionist, folding inside himself and starting to shake after trying to pick up a roll of tape. I felt like I needed to call for an exorcism for poor Jax; clearly, that tape was too much to handle and was one of the numerous bugs I encountered in the game. More on that later.

As Jax is just a little biznatch at the start of the game, experience points must be earned to level up, granting ability points to be spent as you see fit across the five attributes available. There are also special potions scattered in the world that will also grant you some points to spend. Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, and Cunning all affect how Jax develops in the game and certain breakpoints are needed to wield the different weapons and abilities that can be obtained. For example, putting points into Dexterity will improve ranged damage; or to hold a certain one-handed axe, the weapon would stipulate that 20 Strength and 20 Dexterity is required. There is certainly a plethora of weapons available ranging from the aforementioned lead pipes to rocket launchers, to shotguns, and beyond. There’s definitely something for everyone here, meaning you’ll be able to think of and develop a build that’s unique to your playstyle.


Skills are also required to be learned so that Jax may start to improve aspects of himself, such as proficiency in melee or ranged combat, lockpicking, or crafting. To learn skills you must acquire ‘learning points’ from levelling up or special potions (similar to attribute points) and then locate a trainer to spend those points. Expect to spend your credits here too as learning skills doesn’t come for free! You’ll find these trainers on your travels within settlements of the factions or sometimes out in the wilds if you’re lucky enough.

It is a shame that the overall movement feels in ELEX II can only be politely portrayed as a clunky mess. Melee combat animations felt a little weird and incredibly janky, while trying to use a ranged weapon such as a bow and arrow felt overly cumbersome. Relying on a stamina bar that depletes after each swing or as you dodge an attack, it felt like it tried to be a souls-like experience, but failed. Combat also seemed to keep messing with the third-person camera view as I’d often see Jax pushed to the bottom right of my screen after combat, only bringing the character more towards the centre after a minute or so. I really don’t know how or why this happens, but it’s incredibly jarring to the whole experience.

elex ii screenshot steam

The game also feels dated in the visuals department. While it’s an impressive feat to have such a huge open world that can be freely explored, the graphics do seem to be something that matches a mid-2010s title than something modern day. Now I know this isn’t coming from some AAA developer that has the resources to invest in the looks department, but this does seem to be maxing out their existing technologies which sadly puts it in the realms of mediocrity amongst its peers. I also experienced on multiple occasions texture popping, weird flickering effects from shadows to the downright bizarre experience of models and textures simply not loading, leaving me to face headless NPCs, floating heads, and even missing floors. While my colleague seemed to go unscathed in the same area I had the lack of textures, I do feel that this may be an issue multiple people will face.

It’s hard to persevere with a title when I’m encountering so many issues, however I pushed forward and started to appreciate some charms the game does hold. The chatter between NPCs and conversations that can be had are fully voiced and sometimes gave me a chuckle. Having a random NPC shout “Put the gun away pal!” while I’m holding a sword as I’ve just helped kill an overgrown rodent on their farm made me do a double-take, question myself if I really heard this, then laugh it off as a mental interaction.


I also appreciated the sheer freedom I had in the game and I was often drawn to new areas on my search for more shiny items to collect. On one occasion I overheard a couple of NPCs chatting away about how they were excited to watch Billy Idol in action. This opened up a quest in my log with the objective to go watch Billy Idol. I’m thinking, “That can’t be the same one as I’m thinking of, can it?” So I wander to that part of the map and colour me surprised! Yes, rock star Billy Idol, the man who brought us tracks such as “Rebel Yell” and “White Wedding”, is in ELEX II and is performing “Whiskey and Pills” as an actual quest in-game.

So as the map is fully open to being explored, a lot of walking is required; thankfully I do have a jetpack on Jax that can ease the monotony of running everywhere, which initially allows a short burst of flight to reach higher places. You are able to fly around for longer, but you’ll need fuel canisters, credits, the know-how, and a jetpack bench first before you’re free to reach the skies. There are also teleport pads scattered around the lands, which serve as fast travel points once they are unlocked. NPCs can be found wandering the lands on their own patrols and it can be entertaining to watch them take on some massive brick outhouse that would have easily killed me with a simple stare, leaving me to swoop in and loot the spoils as they return on their merry jaunt.


Unfortunately, the janky mess negatives outweighed the positives for me in ELEX II, a statement that will likely give me some grief, but I’ll die on this hill and call this an average game. While this was reviewed on PC, the game will also be available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.

5.50/10 5½

ELEX II (Reviewed on Windows)

The game is average, with an even mix of positives and negatives.

An average RPG spoiled by janky combat and technical issues. I’d only jump into this if there was literally nothing else to play.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Neil 'Wedge' Hetherington

Neil 'Wedge' Hetherington

Staff Writer

A purveyor of strange alcoholic mixes and a penchant for blowing shit up in games. Proud member of the glorious PC master race.

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